Paper Explores the Impact of Scaling College Advising

By Joelle Fredman, NASFAA Staff Reporter

As investments at the federal, state, and local level for one-on-one college advising to help high school students apply for college and file the FAFSA increase, a new working paper explores the impact of offering this service at a national level. 

The working paper — a collaboration between researchers and professors from Stanford University and the University of Virginia — analyzed 9,000 students who graduated high school in 2018 and indicated that they were interested in participating in CollegePoint, a free online resource which matches students with virtual advisors, after being identified by program recruiters. Students are eligible for CollegePoint if they have a GPA of 3.5 or higher, a score in the 90th percentile or above on the SAT, ACT, or PSAT, and an annual family income of $80,000 or less.

The report found that receiving one-on-one advising through CollegePoint had no significant impact on enrollment rates at what the researchers referred to as "CollegePoint Schools," or institutions with graduation rates of at least 70%. 

However, the report did find that those who received advising were 7.5% (or 1.5 percentage points) more likely to enroll at highly selective institutions than those who did not meet with advisers, and that the timing of when students began to receive advising played a large role in this decision. Specifically, the researchers found that students who participated in CollegePoint in the spring of their junior year of high school were 22% (or 5.6 percentage points) more likely to enroll at the most selective institutions than those who didn’t receive advising, but that advising had no impact on those who signed up either the summer before or during the fall of their senior year of high school.

The authors wrote that they are in the process of delving into an explanation for this finding, but hypothesized that students who joined the program in the spring may have been more likely to enroll at selective institutions because they received advising for a longer period of time, or that discrepancies in the findings may just be due to differences in advising effectiveness across the different programs that partner with CollegePoint. 

They also noted that those who joined the program in the spring were mostly low-income, first-generation students, and that there is "some indication that CollegePoint reduced the share of first-generation college-going, moderate-income, and female students attending less selective schools." 

The authors wrote that they are working to update their findings as they look at more data. The University of Virginia also collaborated on a recent paper about the impact of scaling FAFSA “nudge” campaigns, and found that, after releasing preliminary findings that scaling those campaigns may increase enrollment, pushing students to apply for financial aid on a national and state-wide level does not increase college-going rates. 


Publication Date: 8/30/2019

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